This past summer, my mother promised both my brother and I a trip to London and Paris—a graduation gift for my 18-year-old brother and a 16th birthday gift for me. As rewarding of a gift it was, we never expected our travels to teach us so many valuable lessons.
On a bright and sunny Saturday in early June, we left the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and arrived in Boston, from where we took a connecting flight to London. Arriving in the London-Heathrow airport at 6 in the morning, we moseyed our way through customs, ready to step out of the airport and into London’s streets.
Yet, our travels were hindered by the customs officer who announced terrible news to us.
“You know you’re here illegally, right?” the customs officer inquired.
Exchanging blank stares with one another, we didn’t understand where she had gotten that crazy idea from.
However, as it turned out, we were not in London legally. 5 days prior to our arrival, a visa regulation was passed: all Venezuelans were to bring visas when traveling to the United Kingdom. Due to the fact that we failed to show any visas, we could not step inside London’s borders. Instead of the carefree morning we had planned, we were detained in a high security checkpoint in the airport for 6 hours. They told us they had the power to deport us because we were simply not supposed to be in the country; the airline was not supposed to have let us board those planes in the first place without knowing we had our visas with us.
Flabbergasted at how quickly the tables turned, we had no clue what was to happen next. We had planned on staying in London for a couple of days and then catching the train through the English Channel to get to Paris, but those plans were obliterated. Although I felt like a criminal, my mom reassured me that we had not deliberately done anything wrong; it was our travel agent’s fault, for we hired her to do all the travel research for us.
The customs officers finally came and discussed the circumstance with us, realized we had been oblivious of the extremely recent visa regulation, and decided to graciously give us 2 days in London. Oh, how thankful I was for these people—kind strangers who empathized with our situation! Upon seizing our passports and our train tickets to Paris, the Immigrations authorities cut us loose.
As unfortunate as our monetary and time losses were, our gratefulness of having the opportunity to be in London weighed out the cons. Making the most of what we were given, we walked hour upon hour those two marvelous days and even got to meet some cousins for the first time.
In the end, we also went to Paris—free of charge—after speaking to American Airlines about our setback and how action was taken to prevent us from going through such hardship with the customs in London. Despite our great obstacle, we enjoyed ourselves immensely, and I can say that the whole immigration incident made our trip much more memorable. From this trip, my family learned a vital life lesson: put faith in people, but don’t always rely on them to get you out of every situation—we’re human, and we all make mistakes.
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